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Semantic Relationism

ISBN: 978-1-4051-9669-7
154 pages
August 2009, Wiley-Blackwell
Semantic Relationism (1405196696) cover image


Introducing a new and ambitious position in the field, Kit Fine’s Semantic Relationism is a major contribution to the philosophy of language.
  • A major contribution to the philosophy of language, now available in paperback
  • Written by one of today’s most respected philosophers
  • Argues for a fundamentally new approach to the study of representation in language and thought
  • Proposes that there may be representational relationships between expressions or elements of thought that are not grounded in the intrinsic representational features of the expressions or elements themselves
  • Forms part of the prestigious new Blackwell/Brown Lectures in Philosophy series, based on an ongoing series of lectures by today’s leading philosophers
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Table of Contents


1. Coordination among Variables

A. The Desiderata

B. The Problem

C. The Contextualist Response

D. The Dismissive Response

E. The Instantial Approach

F. The Algebraic Approach

G. Relational Semantics for First-order Logic

2. Coordination within Language

A. Frege’s Puzzle

B. Rejecting Compositionality

C. Semantic Fact

D. Closure

E. Referentialism Reconsidered

F. A Relational Semantics for Names

G. Transparency

3. Coordination within Thought

A. Intentional Coordination

B. Strict Co-representation

C. The Content of Thought

D. The Cognitive Puzzle

4. Coordination between Speakers

A. Kripke’s Puzzle

B. Some Related Puzzles

C. A Response

D. A Solution

E. A Deeper Puzzle

F. A Deeper Solution

G. The Role of Variables in Belief Reports

H. Some Semantical Morals

Postscript: Further Work


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Author Information

Kit Fine is Silver Professor of Philosophy and Mathematics at New York University, and specializes in metaphysics, logic, and philosophy of language. He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies and is a former editor of the Journal of Symbolic Logic. He is the author of Reasoning with Arbitrary Objects (Blackwell, 1985), The Limits of Abstraction (2002) and Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers (2005) and the co-author of Worlds, Times and Selves (1977). He has also written papers in ancient philosophy, linguistics, computer science, and economic theory, in addition to the papers in his central fields of interest.
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"With characteristic brilliance and rigor, Kit Fine advances a radically new conception of semantic structure that casts light from an unexpected direction on the nature of compositionality and the theory of direct reference."
–Tim Williamson, Oxford University

"How can two sentences represent the world as being precisely the same way, yet differ in meaning, and express propositions that are rationally believed in different circumstances? Echoing themes initially broached by such philosophers as Hilary Putnam and David Kaplan, Kit Fine answers with a novel conception of semantics uniting the two-sided connection of meaning with mind and world, and culminating in an ingenious, representationalist theory designed to incorporate contemporary Millianism while accommodating traditional Fregean intuitions. A delight to read, the book will be mined for its ideas and arguments for years to come."
–Scott Soames, University of Southern California

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